Smashburger Plans to Open Several Tulsa, OKC Stores

By: Heather Caliendo; The Journal Record

TULSA – Smashburger aims to sizzle in Oklahoma with plans to operate five stores in Tulsa and seven stores in Oklahoma City.

That is part of the company’s growth strategy to open more than 500 restaurants across the country.“We are going to have a very healthy presence in the state of Oklahoma – we like doing business there,” said Tom Ryan, founder of Smashburger. “There’s a lot of traction and energy in Oklahoma.”

The Denver-based fast-casual restaurant started in 2007 when Ryan said he was tired of an “ordinary” burger experience. After dedicating time to researching the burger industry, Ryan came up with a different cooking method in order to create what he called “the perfect burger.”

Smashburgers are either a one-third-pound or half-pound ball of 100-percent fresh Angus beef, smashed and seared on a flat grill to seal in flavors.

“There is something magic about Angus beef and burger making,” said Ryan. “The way we process it is an honest-to-God smashing process.”

The Smashburger restaurant concept was launched with $15 million from private equity and the private investment firm Consumer Capital Partners. Shortly after launching in Colorado, the restaurant grew to 14 stores. The company operates on joint venture and franchise development deals.

The size of each restaurant is between 1,600 to 2,000 square feet.

“It’s a great economic model,” Ryan said. “It gives us a cozy-looking restaurant that works with dramatic art. Our rent is low and we turn out food fast.”

Opening a Smashburger restaurant costs almost $400,000, said Scott Crane, president of Smashburger. Each restaurant generates about $1.2 million in annual revenue.

The overall burger industry is a $1 billion business, said Crane.

“It shows people like their burgers, right?” he said.

In an effort to become “every city’s favorite burger place,” they create a burger specific to the region’s taste. The Idaho Smashburger comes with potato chips, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and mayo on a potato bun.

“In Oklahoma we noticed a plethora of bars, restaurants and pubs have a lot of veggie-based fried stuff,” Ryan said. “We decided to take a side dish and turn it into a burger idea.”

That idea launched the OK Smashburger, which contains fried pickles, pepper jack cheese, haystack onions, lettuce, tomato and buttermilk ranch on an egg bun.

The first Smashburger in Tulsa opened in August at Tulsa Hills Shopping Center.

In response to positive sales and reception, the company decided to open a second Smashburger on 71st Street near the Cinemark IMAX Theater.

Opening new restaurants in a down economy turned into a benefit for the company, said Crane.

The area around 71st Street in south Tulsa receives heavy traffic. Crane said three years ago the space might not have been available, but now real estate is more affordable.

“It’s a good time in an unfortunate economy,” he said. “We have great real estate, great people and it’s fulfilling a niche for the consumer.”

The price for a burger ranges from $4.99 to $6.99. The menu also includes side items, plus hot dogs and salads in addition to soft drinks, milk shakes and beer.

Ryan said most consumers are in and out of the restaurant in 22 minutes. He said unlike other fast-casual restaurants, the number of lunch and dinner patrons is pretty equal.

“We have a unique combination of price, quality and convenience, which allows us to come to Tulsa with modern offers,” Ryan said. “It’s a great town. We honestly think we can become Tulsa’s favorite burger.”